A routine Land for Wildlife revisit began with a few recommended riparian species and concluded with a genuine admiration for an orchid, tree hollows, native bees and rhinoceros beetle larvae.

Scott Mitchell, his partner Karen Salter and their daughter Taylah live on approximately 5 hectares in South Ripley. A portion of their property is also under a Voluntary Conservation Agreement with Council which backs onto large open woodland with enormous rocky outcrops. Just across the boundary is one of Ipswich’s largest reserves, the Flinders-Goolman Conservation Estate.

Beautifully displayed in their house yard is an array of Channelled Boat-Lip Orchids (also called Channel-leaf Orchids, Cymbidium canaliculatum). Found in warmer areas of Australia in open sclerophyll forests, this orchid is described as an epiphyte. It differs from other epiphytes in that its root system invades rotting wood in the middle of the tree where most of the moisture is retained, therefore prolonging life in drier periods. Epiphytes are known as non-parasitic plants using other vegetation as their host. They derive moisture and nutrients from their surroundings such as air, rain and accumulated debris around the orchid itself, therefore having little impact on their hosts’ survival.

The Channelled Boat-Lip Orchid’s extensive root and rhizome system contributes to stabilising a hollowed tree, their roots extend deep into the decaying wood and often reappear from other hollows several metres away from the original plant. Their inflorescence is abundant and varies in colour and patterns. Scott and Taylah have predominantly seen the green with brown spots variety.

Racemes can grow up to 40 cm long and have the ability to carry close to 60 flowers per raceme. Cymbidium canaliculatum can be easily recognised by its ovoid pseudobulbs which are thickened stems growing up to 15 cm long. These act as essential water storage organs in times of drought. Cattle have recognised the moisture in the pseudobulbs and tend to graze on new shoots at an edible height.

Cultivating the Channelled Boat-Lip Orchid is possible; however, careful attention is required when re-potting and watering as they have sensitive roots that resent disturbance.

While wondering around Scott and Karen’s property during my visit, we came across larvae of the Rhinoceros Beetle. These spongy grubs with a thick hairy texture were eating out the hollowed material left in a fallen tree. The topic of bush tucker was instantaneously discussed and it was decided that the grubs would only be consumed in a moment of desperation. Scott later confirmed this to be a survival tool rather than an appetizing bush snack.

After observing Scott’s native bee hive and admiring the vigour of the bees’ activities, my inspection came to end. I left the property feeling enlightened; Taylah’s enthusiasm for environmental management and wildlife conservation is commendable as well as Scott’s willingness to teach and share his knowledge. Protected from cattle, Scott’s orchids have found a fantastic home.

2The Rhinoceros Beetle is a popular pet in South East Asia with the larval stage (shown left) lasting several years. Primarily consuming rotting wood, the larvae play a vital role in breaking down organic material.
Article and photos by Stephani Grove Land for Wildlife Officer Ipswich City Council

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